Album: Mental State
The world is in a state of decay on just about every level imaginable. For some people, it doesn’t matter—ignorance is bliss and they’re as happy as a pig in shit. The degradation of social infrastructure and corruption of the financial and political systems that surrounds us, to them, means nothing. They’re easily able to ignore seeing their fellow human being mistreated and oppressed.
For others, things aren’t so simple.
Oppression and degradation cause depression and stress—wearing them down physically and mentally until every breath could be the last one they take before they snap. For those people—the ones driven mad by the world around them and the people in it—Traitors present Mental State. The sophomore full-length album from this furious Fort Meyers-based downtempo-deathcore-turned-nu-metal act is a series of anthems that see the group lashing out at their surrounding the only way they know how: skull-crushing chugs, gritty grooves and more bounce than a rubber factory.
Listening to Mental State as a long-time Traitors enthusiast, it’s difficult—at points—to even believe this is the same band whose self-titled debut was among the slowest and lowest downtempo deathcore releases of its time. While, at the band’s very core, that same penchant for absurd heaviness is still there, Mental State is much more a continuation of the band’s EP from earlier this year, Night Terrors. The band—lead by songwriter and percussionist Stephen Arango, as well as vocalist/songwriter Tyler Shelton—continues infusing their barbaric and brutal breakdowns with heavily nu-metal influenced grooves. The album’s titular track, “Mental State,” is proof of this in itself—with Arango leading the charge, laying down a catchy and bouncy beat behind the kit that bassist Dave Moore picks up on effortlessly. The interplay between Arango’s percussion and Moore’s deep, devilish bass is the crux of Traitors’ dynamic on Mental State. With Arango’s drums ranging from sinister and straightforward (see “No Sympathy” or “My Regrets”) to funky and catchy (“Worn Out” and “Mental State” are two strong examples), Moore’s bass has to work to keep up—but he manages to do so excellently. Where Arango and Moore’s foundation is strong, the guitar work from Alan de la Torre and Mikey Ingram is just as much so; continuing the band’s trend of blending brutality and bold, metallic riffs and grooves. The conclusion of “No Sympathy” is a defining example of this—as are portions of “EgoTrip” and “Nu Hate”—where de la Torre and Ingram blend the band’s staple beefy, meaty chugs with clever flashes of fretwork and energy. Where “EgoTrip” is an ear-catching example, Ingram and de la Torre’s excellent work there makes their efforts on “Waste Away” and “Disease”—two of the slightly weaker cuts on the album—to seem a little half-hearted. Even where “Waste Away” and “Disease” feel slightly anemic, they remain incredible testaments to Traitors’ growth and development—and still give listeners plenty of opportunities to throw some elbows.
To speak of Traitors—and The Hate Campaign in general—is to speak of the band’s vocalist, Tyler Shelton. Shelton—whose voice has, in many ways, become the face of the band—continues to impress with maturation and technical development that mirrors the overall growth of his band. Shelton’s vocals continue to surpass his efforts on previously releases; and what’s more is that his weakest quality, lyricism, is finally beginning to reach par with his undeniably unique and intense vocal styles. “Mental State,” as well as the sophomore single, “Nu Hate” are incredibly catchy, with Shelton coming up with creative turns of phrase (“credit is dead, entitlement is born”) that become focal points of the entire track. The lead single, “EgoTrip” is further proof—with his references to “Arrogance” serving as the icing on one of the album’s most jarring and blistering breakdowns. Shelton’s continued vocal improvement—as well as his growth as a lyricist—make Mental State both fun and furious, with his lows getting lower and more full, and his flow and patterning improving far and above that of his previous bests.
You can criticize Traitors for a couple things—maybe it’s too “simple” for your taste, or maybe it just doesn’t catch your ear—but you have to admit: they’ve never made the same album twice. Mental State continues that trend, further blending fluidity and flow with fury, groove, and of course, absurd heaviness. While Mental State, thankfully, features far less filler than their debut full-length, it still feels a little bit short for a “full length” album. It isn’t necessary a flaw, but by the time “Empathy” reaches it’s end, many listeners might feel like they could do with just one or two more hard-hitting breakdowns and another catchy groove or so. Ultimately, Mental State is twelve tracks of nu-infused intensity—showcasing that Traitors reject the notion of stagnation, releasing a collection of songs that draw from their entire discography to make something familiar with fury and heaviness, yet still nu and exciting.
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By: Connor Welsh